Depression, Anxiety and the Bladder

Low Urin Tract Symptoms. 2013 Sep;5(3):109-20. doi: 10.1111/luts.12018. Epub 2013 Mar 31.


Depression and anxiety are common mental illnesses. It is recognized that depression/anxiety causes physical changes, including insomnia, anorexia, and bladder dysfunction. We aimed to delineate bladder dysfunction in patients with depression/anxiety by reviewing the literature. We performed a systematic review of the literature to identify the frequency, lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), urodynamic findings, putative underlying pathology, and management of bladder dysfunction in patients with depression/anxiety. From a recent survey of a depression cohort (at a psychiatry clinic), the frequency of bladder dysfunction in depression is lower (up to 25.9%) than that in Parkinson's disease (up to 75%) and stroke (up to 55%), whereas it is significantly higher than that in age-matched controls (around 10%). In both the depression cohort and the psychogenic bladder dysfunction cohort (at a urology clinic), the most common LUTS was overactive bladder (OAB), followed by difficult urination and infrequent voiding. Compared with severe LUTS, urodynamic findings were dissociated; i.e. urodynamic findings were normal except for increased bladder sensation without detrusor overactivity for OAB (50% of all patients), followed by underactive detrusor without post-void residual for difficult urination. The effectiveness of serotonergic or anti-cholinergic medication for ameliorating OAB in the patients awaits further study. In conclusion, although the frequency of LUTS among the depression cohort is not elevated, depression/anxiety is obviously a risk factor for OAB. This finding presumably reflects that the bladder is under emotional control. Amelioration of bladder dysfunction is an important target in treating patients with depression/anxiety.

Keywords: anxiety; depression; overactive bladder; psychogenic urinary dysfunction; stress.

Publication types

  • Review